Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Welcome back to CSA Season!

Welcome to the Summer 2010 CSA edition of Unplugging Desdemona. Yes, I did a winter CSA and there were some great food experiences that came out of that, but I wasn't in a writing mood. Next year I'll extol the joys of a winter of farm-fresh root vegetables, preserved goods, eggs, meats, milks, etc.. I worked on cheeses, ice creams, and as many ways as I could think of to prepare beets and cabbage.

New York is an amazing city for people who want to live in the center of it all, yet remain connected to agriculture. Sure, I have one sad rosemary struggling on my window sill, but I can support a myriad of local farmers through the many Greenmarkets, volunteering, CSAs, and by making my purchasing decisions support the small stores that stock responsibly. Red Jacket orchards is working to get fresh fruits and juices into bodegas in Bed-Stuy--I have to shoutout to "Not Eating Out In New York" for this one. I did hear from the Department of Health in Bed-Stuy about this one but I hadn't gotten the details. I'm glad that the word is getting out there. Just know that there is a kickstarter campaign to fund this initiative that is very, very far from reaching its goals.

If you would like to read more about the food system and health situation in Bed-Stuy to get you thinking about why it's important to support valuable programs like the Healthy Bodegas initiative, check out my work with City Harvest--Bed-Stuy Community Food Assessment. None of this work can be done without your support.

OK, now onto the CSA!

I'd like to give some love to Culinate who put out a recipe for buttermilk ice cream a few months ago. I was able to grab some buttermilk from the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday and some organic lemons and limes from whole foods (I'm looking for a local option, but the citrus is just so good). I doctored up the recipe with a little fresh mint from my CSA to give it just a little hint to compliment to lime and lemon zest. If the idea of a dessert creamier than lemon ice but lighter than ice cream appeals to you, this buttermilk sherbet will knock your socks off!

So, I hope you join me for the summer season.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Heritage Radio - Did Fancy Bacon Kill Vegetarianism?


I love this conversation on Heritage radio about how the sustainable/local food movement has changed the choices available for people who care about and want to change the food system. This came up during the Brooklyn Kitchen's Foodie Book Club meeting last week and to me it is the direction that food activism has taken: vegetarianism is not the only option anymore, soy is NOT the solution, and eating out of season produce and pineapples in new york has more environmental impact than a pork chop from a local, humane, diversified farm.

Now, is it better to "forget" our indigenous cultural roots foods or "forget" that in other parts of the world there are avocados, bananas, and mangoes? Granted, this is a simplified argument, there are so many factors at play, but I believe that the monocropping of soy is not good for the environment nor is too much consumption of it good for our health. I don't think it's "fancy bacon" exactly, but the larger spectrum of quality meat products available via the NY Greenmarkets that has given people an option that is beyond vegetarian.

That said, I finally went to Candle Cafe last night and I was impressed with the food. I haven't gone to as many vegetarian restaurants as I would have in previous years, but a good healthy meal always appeals to me. The enchilada special was out of this world and such a hearty portion that I will be making dinner tonight from the doctored leftovers. It's all about balance.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Foodie Book Club - the Jungle

Few books inspire me not to eat anything like The Jungle did. However, the Foodie Book Club is a theme potluck, so I had to dig through my memory of the book to find some mention of something appetizing. Turn of the century in the Chicago shipyards there wasn't a lot of deep dish pizza and tasty morsels. Most of the book is the struggle to find nourishment for the family and for your own survival.

The book opens with a joyous scene of the wedding of Ona and Jurgis. It is ominous in its gaiety and the frivolousness of the provisions set the scene for the struggle that is to beset the characters. However, at this wedding there is actual food. So, I chose to make my interpretation of the Penny Buns that are present at this wedding feast. I used a cross between an original penny bun recipe I found and a Lithuanian fruit cake roll, since the family was from Lithuania I though I may pay homage to their roots. So I used this recipe and then rolled it out and spread a layer of butter, cinnamon, and chopped raisins.

I used a dried fruit mix soaked in hot water in place of the candied fruits, I neglected to stock up in fruit cake season.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eating Animals, a book review

I was lucky to reserve a copy of the newest eater's manifesto, Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer at my local library. Two weeks ago the lovely spring green hardbound book arrived in my hands and I dove into it looking for what the book could expose to galvanize people and give credence to this burgeoning call for change in the food system.

Needless to say, the book fell short of my lofty expectations.

What was described as being the modern day answer to The Jungle and an honest narrative about the grappling that people of our time must do to answer the question, 'what should I eat,' to me was too caught within the author's box. From the get-go it's framed as a yo-yo vegetarian debating feeding his child meat. It goes through a uncomprehendingly unorganized and rambling investigation into factory farming and some family farming, and ends up with the same argument he started with; with meat comes pain. The research is good, the style is enough to make even the choir struggle through drifting between boredom and annoyance.

While making the argument for conscious eating he downplays the ability of consumers to buy only meat from farms that operate in a humane fashion by stating that even purchasing this kind of meat supports the factory farming industry by bolstering the overall demand for meat products. However, he completely avoids talking about the inhumane treatment of dairy cows and egg-layers. I do not think that it is fair to poo-poo the idea that people can make the conscious decision to never, and I mean never, purchase factory farmed meat. I have lived that way for almost 13 years. He focuses on the pain that even humanely treated animals endure in slaughter, do the animals who are kept virtually constantly pregnant but have their calves ripped from them upon birth not suffering? Is that milk not also produced through pain and suffering? If you are arguing pain and suffering, it seems a cop out to go for anything less than a vegan diet. If you are arguing for conscious eating, environment, and change in the food system, then the argument is for knowing where your food comes from.

I believe that some people will be shocked by the information presented and hopefully it will lead to some honest reflection before making their food purchasing decisions. No, we can't support our current level of meat consumption if everyone decided to only eat from sustainable farms, it would take two things:

1. reduce the amount of meat we eat, without sacrificing our cultural heritage (a piece that he laments and never really answers that question). In our home we will get maybe a sausage or a half chicken (from the farmer's market or our CSA) for a week or two and use it as flavoring and compliment to a healthy diet of vegetables and grains.

2. change the food system, support sustainable, humane farms. Increase the ability of these farms to make a living and then factory farms won't be able to buy them out. Go visit your local farms, get to know how they operate. Go to the farmer's market. Help them to have enough business to support humane slaughterhouses.

To me Eating Animals falls somewhere in the middle between Barbara Kingsolver's novel Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and The Omnivore's Dilemma, presenting personal story supported by research, but the jury is still out as to how profound an effect it will have.

I encourage you to read it, if only to support this type of research and exposing the horrors of the factory farming system.

So, have you read it yet? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.